Google snubbed in France over attempt to limit right-to-be-forgotten requests

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France is now censoring your Google search results, wherever you are.

France’s data protection watchdog has rejected Google’s appeal against an earlier enforcement notice in which the CNIL told the company to expand search delisting requests across all its domains, not just European sub-domains as Google currently is.France’s data protection regulator has rejected Google’s appeal to a May order compelling the search giant to expand Europe’s “right to be forgotten” ruling to every one of its websites worldwide, including so-called right, established last May when a European court ruled that individuals could request search engines to remove links that appeared under their name, has so far only applied within the European Union. Quick backgrounder here: Search delisting in Europe — often dubbed the ‘right to be forgotten’ (rtbf) — refers to a decision by Europe’s top court back in May 2014 ruling that search engines are data controllers and thus must comply with existing European data protection legislation.

Google has been complying with requests to remove search results only within the version of its search engine accessible within the country from which the request came, such as for France. Specifically the judgement means private citizens in Europe have the right to request from search engines that outdated, irrelevant or inaccurate information associated with a search for their name be delisted from that specific name search.

So it requires search engines make difficult value judgements about individuals making requests — such as whether a person has any public role — as well as evaluating the specifics of their request (e.g. what constitutes ‘outdated’ information?). Lawmakers could then establish a broader scope of the controversial privacy concept that lets European citizens ask Google to remove unfavorable search results. Google said: “That means a removal request by an individual in France, if approved, would not only be removed from and other European versions of Google Search, but from all versions of Google Search around the world.” Google appealed the order in July, but this has now been rejected by the CNIL. France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, known as CNIL, ruled in June that Google must expand its takedown practices to all domain names, including those in countries with stronger protections around freedom of speech. Yet it has also led to calls in the U.S. for greater pro-privacy protections for private individuals in an age of big data and instant access to information.

CNIL gave Google 15 days to begin removing search results from all of its domain names or face sanctions, which carry with them a relatively light initial penalty of up to €150,000 for one of the world’s most powerful corporations. Google previously said in a statement that the ruling is “a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.” But CNIL rejected this claim in a public statement released today (Sept. 21). Returning to today’s French ruling, Google had appealed the earlier notice from the CNIL to expand delisting to but that’s now been slapped down by the data protection authority.

This decision “simply requests full observance of European legislation by non-European players offering their services in Europe,” said the French data regulator. Google also accidentally revealed information in a July 2015 transparency report indicating that less than 5 percent of the nearly 220,000 requests up until that point came from criminals, politicians, and public figures attempting to scrub clean their pasts. Google has said that it’s processed more than a quarter of a million requests to delist more than 1 million links since the ruling, and has removed 41.6% of the URL requests it has processed so far.

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